Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Following Mom’s Advice

Following Mom’s Advice

Growing up, my mother would say: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

As regular readers know, that bit of advice never really took hold in me. In fact, I have a compulsion, if not an obsession, with saying what I believe ought to be said – especially about those in power.

But something that happened last week made me regret this tendency of mine and remember my mother’s words.

What happened? Well, innocent people were harmed because of what I wrote on the blog.

I don’t want to make matters worse by explaining the whole exchange in detail (and further exposing the pettiness and venality of the main person involved.)

So I’ll take my mom's advice and stick to policy instead of personality.

Effective June 1, 2012, the single greatest change in New York’s disclosure laws in a generation goes into effect. Lobbyists and clients will now be required to disclose the source of funding for their lobby efforts.

This is a big deal. Now I could debate the pros and cons of this change: On the one hand, it will shine sunlight on a dark and smoky industry. On the other, it could have a chilling effect on free speech etc. etc.

What I’m really interested in, though, is not the big issue controversy, but the simple matter of implementation. The law requires J-JOKE (kudos to Lovett) to establish rules and regulations regarding the who, the when and the how for the lobbying community.

Unfortunately, J-JOKE hasn’t done that yet. The law takes effect in under a week and no rules or regulations exist.

Not good. Confusion is likely to occur. Again, not good.

What am I talking about? Well, here are a few things to consider: Will J-JOKE require disclosure retroactively? If so, many donors who made donations based on an expectation of privacy will be outed.

What exactly is “a source of funding”?  Does it mean companies will have to disclose their revenue streams and customer identities?

How will the provision of waivers be applied? Does J-JOKE get to provide waivers on a case by case subjective basis?

As you can see there are some real issues here, and J-JOKE officials apparently get that because they’ve decided to hold a public hearing on the matter. But the hearing comes after the rules takes effect – meaning everyone is, in effect, flying blind. This is bassackwards. This is …

Oops. Sorry, Mom.

Now I’ve got a solution for my clients that want to protect the identity of their sources of funding and still obey the law but what about everyone else?   They’ve got to wait until J-JOKE issues those rules and regulations . . . sometime in the future.  And since they decided to hold public hearings after the implementation date the J-JOKE is on all of us.

My unsolicited advice to J-JOKE?  It’s time to grow up, act responsibly and notify the public that the disclosure requirements will only be applied prospectively AFTER the rules and regulations are implemented.  It really isn’t that tough a job. 

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